Taxpayers also funding costs of ex-BBC finance head in defamation case against a tabloid newspaper

News that Zarin Patel is taking action over criticisms of the way the organisation paid stars emerged after The Independent revealed departing head of human resources, Lucy Adams, is using licence fee money to sue the NUJ

BBC licence fee payers are funding a personal legal action for defamation brought by a second former executive, The Independent can disclose.

The broadcaster is covering the legal costs of its former £322,000-a-year chief finance officer, Zarin Patel, who is taking action against a tabloid newspaper over its criticisms of the way the organisation paid stars including Jeremy Paxman and Chris Moyles via personal service companies.

Ms Patel claimed she had been personally defamed by a report headlined “Dodge tax or face the sack! BBC tells its stars” and an accompanying editorial headlined “Beeb con must stop” in the Daily Star.

The news that the BBC is covering her legal fees emerged after The Independent revealed that the BBC’s departing head of human resources, Lucy Adams, is using licence fee money to sue the National Union of Journalists over allegations that her department engaged in “dirty tricks”. Ms Patel lodged a claim in the High Court last year, seeking £50,000 in libel damages. She said the story had suggested she “had devised or connived in the BBC’s deplorable practice of ordering its star employees, under pain of dismissal, to dodge tax”.

The case is ongoing.

In correspondence seen by this newspaper, Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, defended the practice of allowing senior executives access to licence fee funds to defend their reputations. “I understand that there is no written policy in this area, but in practice the BBC may in certain limited circumstances meet the legal costs of employees,” he wrote. “Not only where the employee is a defendant but also where staff (unusually) are claimants in an action.”

He added: “I understand that the BBC Executive is reluctant to bring proceedings to protect its reputation but will do exceptionally (and rarely) where the allegations in question are particularly professionally damaging and call an executive’s credibility into question.” Lord Patten’s comments, made in response to a complaint last year by Paul Ashford, group editorial director of Northern & Shell, publishers of the Daily Star, will add to concerns that BBC senior executives regard public funds as being available to legally challenge criticism of their personal performance.

BBC's departing head of human resources, Lucy Adams, is suing the NUJ (Getty) BBC's departing head of human resources, Lucy Adams, is suing the NUJ (Getty)
Ms Patel left the BBC last June after 15 years. The widespread use by BBC presenting talent of controversial personal service companies attracted press criticism last year.

But Ms Patel’s use of the BBC litigation department to seek personal damages has concerned publishers who feel it will inhibit criticism of senior BBC staff.

It is understood that an apology, rather than financial damages, is Ms Patel’s primary motivation. Unlike in Ms Adams’s case, external solicitors’ fees have not been incurred. A BBC spokesperson said: “In spite of repeated attempts to secure a correction and apology to these unfounded allegations, as we successfully did with other publications, we were unable to do so.  As a result and with the full support of the BBC, Zarin Patel felt that she had no alternative but to issue proceedings for libel against the Daily Star.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss